Drought Leads to Desperation on a Small Texas Farm

photo of round bales via GilmerDairy.blogspot.com

As I wrote the headline for this post, I wondered if people would think I was overstating things but as I reread the prompter for this post, I feel certain the person who contacted me truly is desperate for good ideas. She was searching the internet for help and found my blog post on how some Wisconsin farmers were sending hay to Oklahoma and Texas to assist drought ravaged farms. I want to let the message/comment speak for itself but I know I have lots to add after it:

I just saw this article as I was searching the internet for any type of drought relief. We have approximately 80 dorper sheep, boer goats, and nubian goats. We are trying our best to not have to sell them all because of the drought. We are currently paying $150 for round bales and use at least 2 a month by carefully rationing it. I have found ads for round bales for $40-$60, but cannot afford to buy a whole load at one time and pay $2-3 per mile to get it down here (central Texas). Do you know of any kind of assistance we could get. We really don’t want to have to sell everything. Thanks

So the comment strikes me to my core. This farmer, likely considered a small farmer by most, with specialization in smaller livestock needs help. I’ve sent sent her a reply via email and hope to hear more from her but I feel I need to write this now. My reason for posting this to the blog is she hasn’t found solutions and she’s reaching out for help. I don’t mind telling you people I am in WAY OVER MY HEAD. But I am certain that the potential for solutions lies out there.

My assumption was there are other small farmers who are in a bind, particularly in the parts of Texas that have been hit by drought so deep that wildfires have ravaged by wildfires. The spring and summer have been historically dry and this is the time during which farmers in the area are usually able to pasture animals as well as cut hay for use over the winter.

While my first response is to pray for rain so it greens up this fall, we need more. We second thought was to touch base with Carrie, she’s been working hard and has multiple truckloads going down already. And Carrie said with the attention her drive has gotten, she gets at least one request for every bale of hay that is donated. They are from various farmers in different towns…. they are trying to keep their farms. She’s even had people show up to make the plea for family farms in person.

Seriously, this is a crisis.

There are people devastated by this drought worried they will lose everything… their very way of life as well as the future they have been building. Carrie and the community around her are doing their part but Texas & Oklahoma are not small states and there are probably thousands of communities that need help.

Some of the questions I have:

  • Are there any non-profits who are trying to assist livestock farmers in the drought?
  • Are there any government programs that can provide feed assistance in this emergency?
  • How hard is it to break up loads?
  • How far is hay needed to be trucked in?
  • Are there cooperative efforts that could help small farmers find others to share a load of hay?
  • How can we make transportation more affordable?
  • Are there empty trucks headed toward Texas that feed could be loaded into? Services that organize that?
But more importantly, what can you do to help? Who do you know who can also help? As Carrie has said… farmers are not looking for hand outs. The farmer who made that comment is an example….. but we need reasonable fees for sure.
Before I draw it to a close, I wanted to share my favorite hay baling song with you. Thanks to my good friend Will Gilmer of Gilmer Dairy Farm in Alabama.

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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25 Responses to Drought Leads to Desperation on a Small Texas Farm

  1. Melissa September 15, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    I told someone yesterday..hay is the first thing on my mind every morning and the last thing on my mind every night. Worrying about it has kept me awake at night the last several weeks. No relief in site. We are down to 7 head just barel…y holding on. Rationing hay, supplementing with alfalfa pellets. I swear I see it in the faces of the Brahmans-they know something has gone very terribly wrong. I keep remembering Elmer Kelton’s story, “The Time in Never Rained” It is just heart wrenching for all of us suffering this awful drought.

  2. SlowMoneyFarm September 15, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    There’s a part of me that angrily wants to ask where is HSUS, PeTA, FarmAid etc? Where are the people who say they support small farms? This is the time folks!! $5 $10 $50 is needed to get hay from where it is to where it’s needed. There are people in AL also working on it – and the head of dept of ag is working on exemptions for truckers to get it out as quickly as possible. We can’t change fuel costs and we can’t just relay as with many things. Even with donated hay fuel is needed to get it to where it needs to be.

  3. Carrie Mess (@DairyCarrie) September 15, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    I have been on such an emotional rollercoaster this week. Each phone call from a friend, neighbor, stranger donating money and hay sends me over the moon and fills my heart. Each message and call asking for hay breaks my heart. Yesterday alone I had a farmer call and donate 4 bales of hay, not shocking except that he had to buy hay himself this year. I also had a man stop into my office, hat in hand and ask in his Texas drawl if maybe I would consider sending hay to his parents who are in desperate need in South Texas….

    I have to pick another place to distribute hay. I am thankful that donations have lead us to the point where we can do this, however its tearing me apart to pick a place. How do I choose one town over another? One rancher over his neighbor?

    • JPlovesCOTTON September 15, 2011 at 10:12 am #

      Carrie, I have no idea how you choose. I know Melissa who wrote the comment above my friend D’lyn posted to my page her dad has his herd on the block next week. If you’d like people in that area to help you choose, I trust both of them implicitly.

  4. D'Lyn September 15, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Janice, this is a good post. Things here are bleak. Round bales up to $110. Everyone is selling their cattle — my Dad has held out longer than most but is selling his in the next week or so. Everything is brown, brown, brown. And ALL of the fields are empty. Plain empty — no cotton to be found anywhere. Until you see it for yourself, it’s really hard to get how bad the devastation really is.

  5. Jan @ SlowMoneyFarm September 15, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    A part of me wonders too if there’s a way to get some livestock sent out of the area and boarded for the winter somewhere…not a cheap solution but would it be easier sending 50 head out somewhere than trying to get winter hay *in*? I don’t know…horrible situation to have to make. 🙁

    • D'Lyn September 15, 2011 at 11:52 am #

      They’re doing that where I’m from, too. But not everyone can afford it. And the feed is just getting too expensive. A lot of good cattle are going to slaughter. We’re talking a lifetime of work. My cousin had a cow get stuck in a muddy tank a couple of weeks ago, and the turtles were eating her alive. We don’t have any water left on our place. And the outlook for moisture through the winter is bleak.

    • Melissa September 15, 2011 at 11:53 am #

      Jan many folks here who had access and means did just that. I hear alot went to Missouri.

  6. Lisa Mayfield September 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    I have been looking for someone in need of assistance and am willing to make a donation to a Texas farmer to help them feed their animals during this time. Please e mail me.

    • Carrie Mess (@DairyCarrie) September 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

      Information on our hay drive and where donations can be sent are available at http://www.waupunequipment.com

      • Mary July 3, 2012 at 10:09 am #

        Carrie: I would donate some cash via paypal but the link isn’t obvious to me–can you post it on the haydrive page in a bigger font or something?

    • Forrest Hamilton September 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      I have a church member in desperate need of hay. Can you help?

  7. Amy September 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Has anyone looked into intermodal – rail car – as a way of getting the hay to Texas more cost effectively?

    • Carrie Mess (@DairyCarrie) September 15, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

      Good thought… Had not thought about it but I am now!

      • Carrie Mess (@DairyCarrie) September 15, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

        Looks like several people have. About the same cost as shipping by truck but with the added problems of loading and unloading rail cars….

  8. Sharon September 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    I found your post from someone I follow on Twitter who tweeted about it. This is a great way to get the word out. I just posted this on our Facebook page and plan to tweet about it as well. I live in North Central Texas and have never seen it so bad. The cracks in the ground are huge and the fire danger is so severe. Thanks for writing about this.

  9. Sharon September 17, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Something that may be helpful… one of our Facebook followers, Carol Hall, just posted this link on our wall. Texas Drought Hay Connection. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TxHayConnection/

  10. Weekend Cowgirl September 18, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    We have been in desperate need of hay. We finally found some last week, but had to pay $150 a bale. That really hurts, but we had no other choice. We did have to sell some cows last month. When there is not one blade of grass in your pasture what else do you do?? We are lucky and the livestock are so happy to have fresh hay that came from SD.

    • JPlovesCOTTON September 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

      Glad you found some and hate that it costs so much. I know with trucking it down, it gets to be a massive undertaken.

  11. Laurie Grady September 20, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    I AM AND HAVE BEEN NEGOTIATING RAIL NOW AND I HAVE THE SOULTION THE FARMS AND met with an investor yesterday who approved but wont invest for 20 days . thats unspeakable. im fixin to go straight to mark cuban.


    ive quit my crappy part time job because of this. the lack of anyone willing to listen to me and to help me. i can help everyone ive negotiated the first 4 cars loaded from pa thats over 800000 lbs squares will be 6-7 and rounds under 60.. will someone please help me find someone that cares to help us i WILL do it for everyone who needs it. im a horseowner not a profiteer. i cant believe no one has gotten here yet and every farmer wants to help us… pls contact me at lawgirltx2gmail.com

    • JPlovesCOTTON September 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

      Lots of people are doing things…. I guess coordination is needed.

  12. russell rozell October 3, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    we are in northeast Texas and have almost 300 hd of momma cows as well as riding horses to. We bailed all the grass that we could get in a bailer and only made 125 roles. The weather her is so bad we have had an inch of rain in around 3 months the pools are drying up and we had to try to find something to feed the ever hungry cows. We bought some cornstalk hay that the cows wont eat unless you put syrup on it that is very high to. We are already feeding that and it takes almost 500 bales to get through a reg winter with some grass. This year we dont have any grass to start with so we are facing selling alot of the cows that have been on this farm my entire life and have been through 3 generations of family members. So if you can help me please contact us we dont want a handout just some hay that we can afford the people here are raping the ranchers in our time of need!!! please contact me at russrozell@hotmail.com

  13. TONY PENNEBAKER October 4, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    I feel for everyone stuck in this drought. Here in rains county ,Texas there are a hand full of dairy farms holding on. All of us are between 40 and 60 years old. We have suffered through 4 droughts now since 2005 and this 1 is by far the worst. Our mega coop has the power to help us but i dont think they care very much about small operations. After all they pay large producers more because they are large. D F A could take a penny or 2 from all producers and raise enough money to help the dairy’s in this drought . Thats what a coop should do in times like this. After all they took up money to help large dairy’s fight for environmental rights a few years back. A situation that was created by there own misdoings. This is an act of mother nature to which none of us have control.


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